Being a single female taking ayahuasca for the first time, finding the right place was really important for me. I did A LOT of research before choosing Nihue Rao.
The communication, travel arrangements and pick-up from the airport were easy. I felt welcomed on arrival by the staff and integrated very quickly into the Nihue Rao schedule. The day after I arrived, when all other new passengers had arrived, we had an orientation meeting with the centre manager, Benoit and an introduction about how to think about and set our intentions for the ceremonies. Later that evening, we each met separately with the shaman (Ricardo), the centre manager (Benoit) and an interpreter to talk through our histories and our intentions. It was at this meeting, we were also advised of what plant we would be dieting for the duration of the stay. The plant is separate to the ayahuasca and is ‘prescribed’ specifically, depending on what healing you need. You take your plant daily (except Sundays).
I was nervous taking ayahuasca for the first time and found the ayahuasca strong (although I have nothing to compare it too). However, I felt safe at Nihue Rao and well supported by the staff. During ceremonies, staff were attentive to people’s needs, attending to the delicate balance of when to provide support and when to give passengers space on their journeys. I don’t think this is an easy task for the staff or facilitators and yet, they generally seemed to get that balance right.
I had a couple of difficult and frightening ceremonies (I had 7 ceremonies over 13 days) and felt well looked after by the facilitating staff. During one of these difficult journeys, one of the facilitators spoke very firmly with me about what I needed to do and although, I did not experience him as helpful at the time, I realised afterwards, his advice was exactly what I needed.
I have read in other reviews about the shamans being distant and I don’t see it this way. I think if you go with an expectation for them to be a particular way, you might be disappointed. I read an article recently that explained the need for shamans to maintain some distance from passengers so that they can do the necessary work during the ceremonies. After most ceremonies, there was a debriefing/process group the next day, which I found useful. It gave all passengers an opportunity to share their experience and for the shamans to give advice about the process, intentions for the next ceremony, whether to consider drinking more or less ayahuasca etc.
In terms of the environment, it had everything I needed. Basic but safe and clean accommodation, each hut with it’s own hammock. The communal areas were comfortable, relaxed and clean. The food was basic (as per the ayahuasca diet) but delicious and plant of it (2 types of river fish, 2 types of lentils, brown or white rice, quinoa, plantains and potatoes). For breakfast, there was also porridge and sometimes pancakes. There was access to fruit all day (bananas and apples) and also to herbal tea. There is an art maloka with lots of art materials, which I found supportive in between ceremonies to process some of my journeys. There is lots of space to either be with people or to be alone.
I initially found the maloka space daunting, with 20 short-terms passengers (staying 10 days – 1 month) and 5 or 6 long-term dieters (6 months +). However, as time progressed, I enjoyed sharing the space with others and noticing what this brought up in me and my own process. It was not different to dealing with people in everyday life, however, on ayahuasca, I had a chance to look at this more clearly and really face those feelings.
I believe Nihue Rao is truly focussed on healing. They kept people focussed on healing and sometimes this required straight-talking – I appreciated that.
I intend to return to Nihue Rao as I believe it surpassed my expectations in terms of healing, safety and experience.